(an Einstein-inspired) formula for hope

Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
– Albert Einstein

I feel rotten today. Hope is not in the cards for me.

It’s Friday afternoon. It’s dark and dreary out, and has been like this all week.

I have this lingering head cold that doesn’t seem to be improving. I wake up coughing and sore and go to bed exhausted and edgy, and during the day I sort of teeter back and forth between the two extremes.

Before I got this head cold (which may be the flu), I had a jammed toe that required a few weeks off my feet and a round of strong antibiotics which definitely did a job on my body, so I’m going into week four of being infirm in one way or the other.

I really feel uninspired. All the work I have done lately makes me want to cry. Nothing interests me right now. Nothing makes me feel joyful or excited. I feel like resting, but when I rest I feel antsy and trapped. But when I do anything that requires energy, I feel exhausted and out of breath.

I also feel disconnected. Conversations that don’t include me hurt me more than they usually do. I’m a seriously sensitive person to begin with, so when I’m feeling like this, it feels like everything is a punch to the heart.

This all culminated into a perfect storm this afternoon. I got done swimming (I swim when I’m sick- I learned that skipping does nothing but make me feel worse… a warm pool is good for the body and soul) and did all my stuff around the house and sat down to make some art and just felt… deflated. Resentful. Disconnected. Lonely.

Hopeless. (For real).

I thought about getting out my paints or my art journal or opening a new document and journaling it out. I thought about maybe to attending to some “busy work” that needs to get done, maybe checking off tedious stuff on my “to do” list so I’d feel somewhat accomplished and the afternoon wouldn’t be a total loss.

Then I read that quote up there by Albert Einstein. I’ll repeat so you don’t need to scroll back up:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Albert Einstein

For some reason it struck a nerve with me, and I decided to put it to the test and see if he was right. I decided to pose the quote AS the questions themselves.

“learn from yesterday?” : or, what do I know from past experiences that can bring some perspective to *this* situation?
I know from experience that these episodes of feeling very, very crummy don’t really last long. They can be intense, but they tend to come through and then go on their way.

I know from experience that I go through periods where I feel horrible about my art and then it goes away and I start making things again. I know from experience that inspiration usually finds me fairly quickly even if I’m sure I’m out of good ideas.

I know that there’s a period of time every month when I feel lonely and disconnected and then a handful of days pass and I get some decent sleep and I stop feeling that way.

Knowing those things about myself gave me hope, even on a day like today when it seemed like a lost, grouchy cause.

“live for today” : or, what can I do *right now* that will improve this situation?
As much as I believed that getting a few things ticked off my “to do” list might improve my mood in the future, the truth was it would do absolutely nothing to improve my mood at the moment.

So, taking Albert’s advice, I decided to “live for the moment”. I decided to HONOR feeling craptastic. I decided to BE cranky. To BE uninspired. To BE achey and sneezy and sick. Amd I decided to give myself permission to just wallow in it.

So I got out of my art studio, I made a giant mug of chocolate chip tea and then I sat down right in front of the television, kicked my feet up, and watched Project Runway for a little while. All the while, acknowledging how crappy I felt.

You know what? It worked. It TOTALLY worked. After about an hour of that- an hour of just being cranky and tending to it and letting myself feel what I needed to feel- I felt infinitely better.

By honoring the fact that I wasn’t in any sort of mood to tap into my heart and soul and focus on anything, I was actually showing myself compassion. I was living *in* that moment instead of trying to get things done because it would make me feel better later on. And by doing that- choosing what felt right at the moment – I actually made myself feel a lot better.

And I’m back at my desk, writing this. That’s pretty huge, considering just an hour ago I was ready to quit on anything requiring any sort of creativity or brainpower.

“hope for tomorrow” : or, what little tiny piece of this experience might allow me to feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel?
Just sitting down, shutting off my brain and my inner critical voice, and soothing my achey body and soul, I was able to start quieting the cranky voices and tuning back into the ones that whisper “it’ll be okay. Let’s try again tomorrow.” That, right there, is hope.

So remember: when all looks grim, simply ask yourself these questions:
– what can I learn from yesterday?
– what can I do to live for [how I’m feeling] today?
– what brings me even the tiniest bit of “hope for tomorrow”?

Thank you very much indeed, Mr. Einstein.

Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.

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